PES 2014 PS3 review – Fluid but flawed side is Messi on the pitch, messy off it
Talk about a Fox (Engine) in the box. Set to put the geriatric lead back into Snake’s sneaky pencil next year in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, the bushy-tailed tech breathes new life into Konami’s soccer star right here and now. Playing the most supple and assured game of football since the series first tripped onto PS3 turf in unconvincing fashion, PES 2014 is a genuine contender for the crown FIFA has held a Fergie-style stranglehold on for the last five years.
That the game’s title tilt ultimately falters on the last day is down to two key faults: presentation and occasional jarring slowdown that makes Gareth Bale slower than Dean Windass. But before I begin to berate PES Productions like I’m Paulo Di Canio ripping Phil Bardsley a new one after he’s spent all night doing backstrokes in a sea of £50 notes on the floor of a Sunderland casino, the gargantuan on-field improvements deserve a whole lot of lovin’.
The key change is the weight and fluidity the Fox Engine lends PES 2014. Last year, passing could feel unnaturally floaty; the ball often pinging about as if you were in control of a giant foosball table. Now, though, a raft of physics and animation upgrades imbue matches with a wonderful weighted crispness. Top midfielders like Fabregas and Modric now cushion and caress passes with convincing solidity. Improvements to the Deft Touch dribble on R2 also mean versatile attackers in the Neymar mould are far more adept at squeezing past defenders. In short: PES plays a brilliant game of footy this year.
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There’s also more emphasis on the physical side of the game. Refs are remarkably nonchalant and will keep cards rooted in their fetching front pockets unless you break out the naughty circle knee-high Karl Henry reducers. This lenient view towards physicality gives the action a tremendous flowing quality and battling for possession with a meaty shoulder barge using a deft flick of the right stick makes defensive duties more involving than ever.
With such a finely balanced, tactile ground game PES 2014 often feels like the equal of FIFA 14
With such a finely balanced, tactile ground game PES 2014 often feels like the equal of FIFA 14. In some ways, it even occasionally nips in at the front post ahead of the mighty EA juggernaut to snatch a brief away lead. One area Konami’s effort is clearly ahead of its rival is the individuality of its stars.
Thanks to a bolstered Player ID system, well over 50 of the world’s biggest names feel distinctly unique. Ronaldo is the prime example. All explosive bursts of pace and dominating aerial presence, he’s the virtual doppelganger of the real life preening Portuguese whose 204 goals in his first 203 appearances for the club have bagged him a fresh €90m contract.
That stiff-backed sprint has been recreated unnervingly and his animations are unlike that of any other player in the game. Hell, 15 minutes into my third match I even channel Air Ronnie, scoring a carbon copy of the gravity-defying header he netted against Man United in last season’s Champions League.